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Jordan, L. (1997). Nonverbal Communication In The Psychoanalytic Process. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:1261-1269.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:1261-1269

Nonverbal Communication In The Psychoanalytic Process

Leslie Jordan

Jacob Jacobson opened the panel by declaring that he had decided against delivering his remarks in pantomime. Nonetheless, gesticulation supplemented his words as he provided a series of humorous examples, both contemporary and historical, of nonverbal communication. He pointed out that the capacity to communicate without words is rooted in our evolutionary heritage, as evidenced by the elaborate behavioral signaling systems to be found in the animal world.

Through his examples, Jacobson illustrated various uses of nonverbal communication. Condensed in a few gestures, a complex sexual or aggressive message may be conveyed, as may any number of other emotions and motivations. Nonverbal communication can add nuance by providing punctuation for a verbal exchange, or it can be the main event, fully comprehensible and so evocative that words would only distract. As background punctuation, it can parallel and reinforce the words or it can qualify or even contradict the verbal message. Unlike verbal communication, which is largely intentional, nonverbal communication may often be unintentional. Jacobson gave several examples in which gestures may be “more revealing than speech”: in these the intent of the words was to obfuscate; the unintentional effect of the gestures was to reveal or confess.

Since its earliest days, psychoanalysis has shown interest in the nonverbal, through with varying degrees of sophistication and different emphases at each stage.

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